Readings

Raising Steam (Terry Pratchett). Mind candy. A bit later, chronologically, so a little overwritten and meandering.

No Good Men Among The Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes (Anand Gopal). A pretty harrowing narrative of the war, how terribly the US conducted itself viz. oversight of local “allies,” and the human impact it had. Stomach-churning at times, but very engrossing. I haven’t read many books on the subject so I can’t speak to comprehensiveness, but it was very affecting for me.

A Cat, a Man, and Two Women (Junichiro Tanizaki). This was a short novella (packaged with two short stories) about a schlub who gets along with his cat more than his wife (or his ex-wife). He’s more or less a leech: unmotivated, entitled, and wasteful. But he loves his cat. Tanizaki is known for his grotesque (often erotic) fiction. This book isn’t that per se, but is fairly frank and graphic about bodily functions, the state of the litter box, and so on. Cat lovers may enjoy and be repulsed by the prose at the same time. As a non-pet person I found it slightly uncomfortable but in a way I didn’t mind. Perhaps not the best introduction to Tanizaki, but worth it for the cat lover, perhaps.

Hopscotch (Julio Cortázar). A very important work of fiction, in the Rabassa translation. Hopscotch is a novel about Horacio Oliveira, an Argentinian intellectual who starts in Paris and moves back to Argentina during the novel. The story can be read 2 ways: linearly through the first 50+ chapters, or hopscotching back and forth though the novel with the next chapter indicated at the bottom of previous chapter, like a do-not-choose-your-own-adventure. Much has been written about the novel, and it’s got some pretty amazing literary devices which feel like they must have been untranslatable. What is a bit hard is that very important events happen in a flash or are not really spelled out, and as a reader it might take you a few pages to realize that e.g. a tragedy has befallen one of the characters. It merits careful reading.

The House at Mount Char (Scott Hawkins). A pretty stunning (and stunningly violent) vaguely apocalyptic fantasy novel set in a kind of contemporary world. If you liked The Magicians and Station Eleven, you might like this book as well. There’s got to be a name for this sub-genre but I can’t figure out what it is.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Katherine Boo) This was recommended and lent to me by Celeste, and it’s a narrative nonfiction/investigative report of a slum in Mumbai near the airport. Although I’ve read quite a bit about economies in the slums and life therein, both from fiction and nonfiction, Boo really does a great job of telling these complex and very human stories.

Sad Little Breathing Machine (Matthea Harvey). Quirky but often cutting and a little too real poems. I picked it up on a whim and was glad I did. Like I said, I need more poetry in my life. A bit I chuckled at: “But being / matter-of-fact is like a meatpie in / the pocket. It is the way to go.”

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Scott Lynch). Mind candy of a sort: noble thieves in a gritty European-ish fantasy world that’s somewhere between Renaissance and Enlightenment in sensibility. Recommended by a friend as a good summer read, and it fit the bill quite well.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (N.K. Jemisin). Since Jemisin just won the Hugo Award I figured I should read her books (not that awards make me read books, but I just bumped her up the list). Since The Fifth Season has a 58-person-long hold list at the library, I figured I would start with her earlier books. This is the first in a trilogy: a world with gods (who I kept thinking of as orbital weaponized AI satellite systems) and colonialism and all that messy stuff that good SF grapples with. Recommended for fantasy fans. I’ll read the others too, eventually.

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